Did you make it through Wednesday? If so, then we have another Game 5 for you Thursday night at Dodger Stadium. The New York Mets are looking to return to their first NLCS since 2006, while the Los Angeles Dodgers are hoping this will be another step to their first World Series since 1988.
Some thoughts on the game ...
1. With Jacob deGrom and Zack Greinke starting, you'd certainly expect a low-scoring game. Since joining the Dodgers in 2013, Greinke is 30-5 with a 1.99 ERA at home, including the postseason. This season, he's 11-1 with a 1.52 ERA at home and hasn't allowed more than two runs at Dodger Stadium since April. DeGrom was brilliant in Game 1, striking out 13 in seven scoreless innings. While he threw a season-high 121 pitches, he'll be pitching with an extra day of rest, so that shouldn't be a major concern. He did have a notable home/road split in the regular season, however, with a 1.99 ERA at Citi Field and 3.09 on the road. That was the result of one factor: He allowed two home runs in 95 innings at home but 14 in 96 innings on the road.
2. Keep in mind that there is a natural tendency for umpires to favor the home team. A study of pitch data by University of Chicago economist Tobias Moskowitz showed that home-field advantage is largely the result of borderline strike calls and that the larger -- and presumably louder -- the crowd, the more likely that umpire bias will show. "In baseball it turns out that the most significant difference between home and away teams is that the home teams strike out less and walk more -- a lot more -- per plate appearance than road teams," Moskowitz wrote in "Scorecasting" with L. Jon Wertheim.
In other words: Not that the on-screen strike zone graphic is perfect, but watch how those borderline strike calls are getting called. While both home teams won their Game 5s on Wednesday, home-field advantage hasn't been a huge factor overall this postseason, with home teams going 9-11 so far.
3. ESPN Insider Eno Sarris has a good look at deGrom's pitch repertoire. Not only does he have plus velocity -- he ranked in the top 10 among starting pitchers in fastball velocity -- but his changeup, curveball and slider are all plus offering as well. He'll mix his usage of those pitches pretty widely from game-to-game, although he threw his fastball more often in Game 1 than he had in any of his previous eight starts. If he's blowing that pitch past Dodger hitters like he did in Game 1, expect him to throw it 60-plus percent of the time once again.
4. Greinke also has a wide range of pitches: Four-seamer fastball, two-seamer with sink, plus a slider, curve and changeup. He threw his fastballs just 37 percent of the time in his Game 2 start, his lowest percentage of the season, while throwing his slider 30 percent of the time, his third-highest rate of the season. As with deGrom, however, you can't really isolate a predictable pattern. There's a reason he posted the lowest season ERA since Greg Maddux 20 years ago.
5. Both pitchers are pretty good hitters for pitchers, meaning both managers may be more willing to let them hit to get an extra inning out of them, depending on the specific circumstance -- especially since both skippers may also be a little hesitant to go to their middle delivers. Greinke hit .224 with two home runs and deGrom hit .186.
6. If either pitcher unexpectedly falters early, the long relief edge goes to the Mets. Noah Syndergaard would be available on regular rest, and Terry Collins indicated that Matt Harvey would also be available in relief. I can't imagine Harvey being used except in extra innings, but it's certainly possible and likely that the Mets would like to use just three pitchers in this game: deGrom, Syndergaard to bridge the gap if needed and then closer Jeurys Familia. The Dodgers will need their bullpen at some point, as Greinke has just one complete game all season. If that means more than closer Kenley Jansen or setup guy Chris Hatcher, who does Don Mattingly go to? He went to Pedro Baez in Game 1 with the bases loaded, but that didn't work. Yimi Garcia struck out the side in his one inning in the series. Like the Mets, I'm guessing the Dodgers hope on three pitchers max: Greinke, Hatcher, Jansen, with maybe J.P. Howell against a left-hander.
7. A key guy: Former Met Justin Turner. Incredibly, the former backup infielder who the Mets non-tendered after 2013, is now batting cleanup for the team with the highest payroll in the majors. He's hitting .467 in the series.
8. Curtis Granderson has been huge for the Mets, hitting .429 with three walks and just one striking. He seems locked in, providing great at-bats, fouling off pitches, working the count, etc.
9. The two runs off Greinke in Game 2 both came on home runs in the second inning -- Yoenis Cespedes clubbed a 2-2 fastball and Michael Conforto jumped on a 2-1 fastball. That could be why Greinke went to more offspeed stuff the rest of the way. Playing Conforto means the Mets do take a slight defensive hit in the outfield, with Cespedes moving over to center for Juan Lagares and Conforto replacing Cespedes in left. Considering the Mets also lose a little range with Wilmer Flores instead of Ruben Tejada, defense could be a decisive factor.
10. As I write this, the lineups haven't been announced, and who knows what the Dodgers will go with. Mattingly said Wednesday that catcher Yasmani Grandal (battling a sore shoulder) has a 50 percent chance of playing. He sat out Game 4, but he's caught 26 of Greinke's 32 starts, so you know the Dodgers want him in there. The shoulder affects him at the plate, not catching. Will Joc Pederson or Kiki Hernandez be in center field? Pederson started the first game against deGrom, but Hernandez has started the past three and gone 4-for-10. I suspect he'll be in there. And Corey Seager probably gets the nod over Jimmy Rollins at shortstop, although he's fanned five times in 12 at-bats.
Anyway, it should be a fun, tense game. Let's hope there are no umpiring controversies, no beach balls thrown on the field in the middle of a play and no seventh innings like Wednesday in Toronto. I'm not sure we can take another one.
Prediction: Extra innings! Mr. Met David Wright hits a home run in the 11th, and Harvey comes on and gets the save as the Mets win 2-1.